Pop the Cork: Champagne’s Secret Health Benefits

When reaching into your liquor cabinet for a beverage, it turns out that there are other choices beside red wine that offer health benefits. When it comes to alcohol and heart health, red wine seems to have cornered the market, what with its healthy resveratrol and polyphenols, natural body chemicals associated with heart health. Red wine is a great accompaniment to a hearty stew or an indulgent piece of dark chocolate. But some occasions call for lighter refreshment, such as a fish dinner or a ringing in the new year. The good news is that champagne also appears to have vascular benefits.

A 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition investigated whether the polyphenols in champagne have effects similar to those in red wine on heart health. Healthy adults were randomized to consume either champagne or a control beverage with the same amount of alcohol. Blood and urine samples were drawn and laser Doppler imaging to measure vascular function was performed at regular intervals after finishing the drink.

The results of the study showed that both drinks caused endothelial lining of blood vessels to relax and dilate thus increasing blood flow. These changes were related to the alcohol content of the drinks. Only the champagne, however, contributed to vascular nitric oxide levels to further enhance the dilation of blood vessels. Nitric oxide is a chemical that plays an important role in sending messages between molecules in the body. In blood vessels, nitric oxide signals smooth muscle to relax so the blood vessels can dilate. The polyphenols in champagne may be partially responsible for maintaining vascular nitric oxide levels.

The study only included 15 participants, which limits the interpretation of the results. And more research is needed to determine whether champagne consumption reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease; however the researchers concluded that regular moderate champagne intake may improve blood flow and vascular performance.

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